25 September 2010

The ORIGINAL "Big Bang Theory"

This is not going to turn into a "Big Bang Theory" blog -- even though it seems like 7 out of the last 10 postings have been about the show. No, the big news here is that we have FINALLY seen the original pilot episode that has been suppressed for lo, these many years.

At the time of our totally awesome, full-day tour of the Warner Brothers studios last October we had been trying unsuccessfully for months to get tickets for a taping of the show. So, we asked our wonderful tour guide if he had any. He said: "No. That's one of the hardest tickets to get. There's a great story behind that show. It's been knocking around the lot for years ever since the first pilot episode." First pilot? What was he talking about?

Our guide told how the pilot had a totally different atmosphere, it was dark, the neighbor next door was drunk and abrasive and it did not sell. He said that Warner Brothers asked for a second pilot (which studios nearly never do, but which Paramount did, for example, with the original "Star Trek" television series in the 1960s).

We asked whether that original neighbor had also been Kaley Cuoco. He said no. When we asked who it was, he said they were not allowed to talk about it -- which seemed all mysterious. He said they never talk about pilots that don't sell to avoid embarrassing the actors who were in them. Hmmm.

Once we got home, I found references to that original female actor (Amanda Walsh, pictured) but could not find the episode.

Last night, Matt stumbled on some YouTube clips of this mysterious unaired pilot that seemed funny, although too short to give a good idea of the show.

This a.m. I hunted around and finally found lots and lots of sites offering the unaired pilot -- and quickly discovered that the Warner Brothers lawyers got to them first as nearly all had a notice that the file was removed due to some violation or other.

You will note I said "nearly" all: Yes, we found a site in a country that is written in a language that I not only do not speak, but also do not recognize.

The main cast is small and includes Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki. It has Walsh as the female protagonist (NOT the next door neighbor) and a very funny turn by someone I have never heard of named Iris Bahr who plays Leonard's co-researcher. (She probably evolved into the character played by Sara Gilbert.)

After watching it, I can say it is not half as bad as people have said. I can understand why it did not work, but it was not the performance of Walsh (she was pretty good); rather the character. BBT works today (and is the number one comedy in America despite what the cover of the recent "Entertainment Weekly" posits) because the scientists are fish out of water, and Penny (the neighbor) is totally "normal." The original pilot has fish-out-of-water scientists coupled with a boozy abrasive drunk bitch who is also a fish-out-of-water. With all these fish flapping about on the sand, there is nothing to play against. It is the interaction between abnormal and normal that makes BBT work.

Of course, the addition of two more male scientists (Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg) was an excellent choice because all four guys are fish-out-of-water for different reasons. That gives the writers lots to play with.

The next question is "why is this pilot not on any of the season DVDs?" Personally, I think it is a testament to the brilliance of the show's creators (Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady) that they gave a few tweaks to "almost right" and made it "fabulous." Warner Brothers should be proud of what they encouraged and should share it with BBT fans.

In addition, I think it would be pretty sweet to have an episode with Walsh and Bahr as guest stars. They did pretty good with their roles and deserve to be officially part of the show.

You can see the original unaired pilot here -- unless the Warner Brothers lawyers have been working overtime.

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